By Penny Woodward

With great excitement I’ve been following the construction of the Phillip Johnson garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Once again (and apparently for the last time) Wes Fleming  and Flemings Nursery is sponsoring and building a show garden at Chelsea. It is wonderful looking at some of the slide shows and video clips and seeing the passion and dedication of the whole crew, but of Wes Fleming and Phillip Johnson in particular.

Philip Johnson's plan for the Chelsea Flower show (from Fleming's website)

Phillip Johnson of Phillip Johnson Landscapes, has designed a garden that is a showcase of Australia’s natural beauty. It is crafted to demonstrate the seamless transition between house and garden, and  aims to challenge conventional garden design while incorporating best environmental practice in urban surrounds. Key features of the garden include a substantial billabong fed by a series of waterfalls, cascading over a huge stone gorge, which forms a breathtaking foundation for an architecturally designed studio.

As so often with Phillip’s designs the central focus is the collection and filtration of rain water. All hard surfaces channel rain into two primary catchments – the rain water tank and the billabong. Diverting and harnessing rainfall run-off from neighbouring sites within the show grounds also contributes to the water harvesting on site.

As described on the Flemings website: ‘When the tank is full, the overflow is directed into a creek which flows into the billabong.  Johnson’s design creates an integrated water network that sustains the landscape and is completely independent from mains water, whilst also reducing the impact on the storm water infrastructure from Trailfinders Australian Garden site as well as neighbouring sites.  Serving as a beautiful, chemical-free natural pool for swimming, the billabong includes stone waterfalls that provide aesthetic, acoustic and functional benefits and serves as a source of evaporative cooling for the studio. The billabong also provides a larger water reservoir as a defence in the advent of a bushfire. Much of the landscape will be powered ‘off the grid’, with solar panels located at the rear of the garden generating enough power to sustain most of the electrical elements including the lighting and outdoor shower.’

A pair of ducks drops in for a look around

Continuing the ecological theme, aquatic plants on the margins of the Billabong absorb nutrients from the incoming water and non-permeable surfaces are kept to an absolute minimum in order to encourage water re-use and plant regeneration. Also the wealth of different regions and plant species within the garden provide habitats for insects, frogs, micro-organisms and other wildlife to thrive. Watch the video of Phillip talking about taping frog calls in his garden in Yarra Glen and how they will be played using surround sound to provide another element of immersive experience for Chelsea visitors. On the 11th of May the team was chuffed to find that wild ducks were so impressed with the garden that they wanted to take up residence! As Philip says ‘We design, build and maintain sustainable habitats that help to heal the earth, feel magical to live amongst, and create spaces where you can completely unwind.’

To find out more and follow all the action go to
Flemings website
And keep your fingers crossed for them on Judging day, perhaps an Australian team will win best in show for the first time?